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Resource Bulletin NE-160
The Forests of Connecticut
Eric H. Wharton
Richard H. Widmann
Carol L. Alerich
Charles J. Barnett
Andrew J. Lister
Tonya W. Lister
Eric H. Wharton, Richard H. Widmann, Carol L. Alerich, Charles J. Barnett,
Andrew J. Lister, and Tonya W. Lister, Forest Inventory and Analysis
Program, Northeastern Research Station, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Don Smith and Fred Borman, Connecticut Department of Environmental
Protection, Division of Forestry, Hartford, Connecticut
Photo credits: cover, Paul Fusco, USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Service; pages 3, 6, 10, 22, 27, 33, 35, Connecticut Department of
Environmental Protection, Division of Forestry; pages 4, 11, Richard H.
Widmann, USDA Forest Service; page 7, used by permission of the State of
Connecticut; page 24, Maine Maritime Museum; page 26, Robert Burt,
USDA Forest Service; page 29, upper right, Robert L. Anderson, USDA
Forest Service, image 1748049 (www.forestryimages.org), lower left, Terry
McGovern, USDAAPHIS, image 2652087 (www.forestryimages.org); page
30, Robert A. Haack, USDA Forest Service, image 3225081 ,
Published by: For additional copies:
USDA FOREST SERVICE USDA Forest Service
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April 2004 Fax: (740)368-0152
Visit our homepage at: http://www.fs.fed.us/ne
There is something about Connecticut . . .
♦t* There is a reason why thousands of people — from all over the world — flock to
Connecticut in the autumn to view nature's finest show.
♦J* There is a reason why many of the world's producers of fine oak fiarniture, flooring,
and paneling beat a path to Connecticut in search of raw materials.
There is a reason why millions of people either come to Connecticut or stay in
Connecticut to rest, relax, and recreate.
There is a reason why so many species of wildlife, such as bear, fisher, bald eagle,
turkey, coyote, and martin, have returned to Connecticut's landscape.
♦t* There is a reason why so many people seek to nestle their homes in the natural beauty
and serenity of Connecticut.
Yes, there is something about Connecticut . . . and I believe the something about
Connecticut is our State's enduring treasure — our forests. These forests form the backdrop to
life in Connecticut and contribute so much to the quality of life here.
This report is reassuring for the citizens of Connecticut: their beloved forests are healthy. But
this report also raises a word or two of caution: the forests of Connecticut are in danger of
being loved to death. Unchecked, our yearning to own and live in our own small piece of
Connecticut's green treasure will eventually bring about a fiindamental - and very sad —
change. The very nature of our forests will change and the reasons that the forests of
Connecticut are so special will diminish: less recreation, fewer wildlife, fewer forest products,
and less natural beauty.
In a very real and paradoxical way, the future of Connecticut's forests is tied directly to the
fiiture of Connecticut's cities. If we strive to create cities that are a joy to live in, maybe the
desire to build a home in the forest will decrease - and the forests of Connecticut will
continue to endure. Think about it.
So, read this report and smile about Connecticut's forests today - but think about the future.
Connecticut State Forester
Connecticut's Resilient Forests
Forests provide wood and other forest products, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, a
setting for recreation, and much more. They have played a major role in the history and
culture of Connecticut. The State is one of the most densely populated in the nation, yet
its forests remain as much a part of the landscape as its cities and towns.
Early settlers found nearly all of Connecticut covered by forests with open, park-like
conditions. For more than 1 ,000 years before European settlement, the Native Americans
of the region burned the forest in spring and fall to eliminate tangled underbrush. The
forests that resulted provided a more suitable habitat for the game species on which they
subsisted. Native American populations were small and had little impact on the forest
ecosytems in which they lived. However, once Europeans arrived, the landscape changed
Clearing land for agriculture began slowly as colonists built small subsistence farms. But
by the early 1 800s, the establishment of farms spread rapidly as Connecticut's farmers
began to supply food and wool to a rapidly growing nation. Extensive forest lands were
cleared, towns were built, and wood was harvested for homes and barns, furniture, and
fuel. Thousands of small farms formed the basis for a strong, agricultural-based economy.
The many stone walls and decaying chestnut fences found throughout the woods of
Connecticut are evidence of this history.
By 1820, only 25 percent of Connecticut was forested. Substantial changes within forest-
dependant communities followed, as black bear, elk, mountain lion, white-tailed deer,
quail, grouse, and timber wolf disappeared from much of the State. The loss of habitat
and extensive harvesting of certain wildlife species, such as beaver and wild turkey,
contributed to alter the balance of Connecticut's natural communities.
Forests once thought to be unlimited began to disappear and the State faced declining
wildlife populations and timber shortages. Soil erosion from farms increased and silt
muddied the water in creeks that once ran clear. Because of the rapid runoff of storm
water, springs that previously flowed all year began to dry during the summer.
In spite of these negative environmental impacts, farming continued to flourish until
economic, rather than environmental, reasons converged to alter the landscape once again.
In 1830, the Erie Canal opened and Connecticut's agricultural zenith passed. Within two
decades, the small, stony farms of Connecticut were unable to compete with the larger,
more mechanized farms of western New York and the Ohio River Valley.
Much of the farmland became exhausted and unsuitable for continuous agricultural crops
and soon was abandoned. Farmers left marginal hillside farms to take city jobs created by
the growth of manufacturing. Finally, the opening of the West after the Civil War and the
added incentive of free land hastened the pace of farm
abandonment across New England. Before long, forests began
to return to much of Connecticut.
Abandoned farm land reverting to
forest has been repeated countless
times. Since 1825, the acreage of
forest land in Connecticut has
more than doubled. However, the
acreage in farmland has continued
to decline to this day.
Without human interference, the vegetation of abandoned fields changed. Plants with seeds
distributed by wind or birds were the first to germinate. These included many of the more
common wildflowers - golden rod, New England aster. Queen Anne's lace, Joe-Pye weed,
butterfly weed, and blackberries, for example. Trees more suited to open, grassy patches
followed - white pine first, then oak and hickory. Other species such as birch and red maple
also established themselves on recently abandoned cropland, the latter species particularly in
bottomlands. Then, as the trees grew and formed a protective canopy, more shade-tolerant,
deciduous species such as sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, and hemlock, became established in
At one time, Connecticut's forest were comprised predominantly of American chestnut. But in
the early 1900s, the chestunt blight changed the composition of Connecticut's forests forever.
This disease struck at a time when forests were being cleared extensively for charcoal
Harvesting wood for charcoal boomed between 1880 and 1925. Much of Connecticut's forests
were cleared, sometimes more than once, to feed a hungry nation's need to heat homes and
manufacturing facilities. When coal was introduced as a cheaper fuel, charcoal production
declined. However, the state's forest composition had been significantly altered.
Oak, hickory, and other hardwoods grew in place of chestnut. Ofi:en originating as sprouts
developing in full sunlight, these trees formed many of the even-aged stands of oak and hickory
that covers much of Connecticut's woodlands today.
Over the years, other natural enemies, such as Dutch elm disease, gypsy moth, and storms such
as the 1938 hurricane, have continued to alter the face of Connecticut's forests. Human
influence, as well, continues to reshape the landscape. Today, the forests once again are being
pushed back, not for agricultural use, but from the pervasive march of urban sprawl. What will
the forests of Connecticut look like tomorrow?
HOW WAS THE INVENTORY CONDUCTED?
The USDA Forest Service could not count every tree in Connecticut.
Instead, it uses a scientifically designed sampling method. First, aerial
photographs of the entire state are studied. A grid of nearly 1 2,000 points
was overlaid on these photos. If forested, each of these points v/as classified
according to the size of the trees. From this information, a sample of 45 1
plots v/as selected for measurement by field crews. Included in this sample
were 401 plots established during previous inventories. By remeasuring
plots, data was obtained on how individual trees grow. Some plots were
first established in 1 952 and were measured for the fourth time during
1997-1998. Field crews collected information on the number, size, and
species of trees, as well as a host of other forest attributes. From the data,
reliable estimates were made of the forest resource - its condition and
health, and how it is changing over time.
A New Forest Inventory
Widespread land abuse in the eastern United States
during the 1 800s led Congress to pass conservation
legislation in the early part of the 20th century. Under
this authorit}^ the U.S. Forest Servdce began to conduct
periodic forest inventories in all states to provide
information about the forest resources of the nation.
Now, continuing inventories are conducted throughout
the countr}' on many occasions, under the authorit}- of
the McSweeney-McNar}' Forest Research Act of 1928,
and more recent legislation that includes the Renewable
Resources Planning Act of 1974 and the Renewable
Resources Research Act of 1978.
Previous inventories were conducted for Connecticut in
1952', 1972-, and 1985.' In 1997-98, die fourth
inventor)^ of Connecticut's forests was conducted by the
U.S. Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)
Program, Northeastern Research Station. The
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection,
Division of Forestry^, cooperated in this effort.
The results of this most recent inventor}^ detail the
condition and extent of Connecticut's diverse forests.
Highlighted in this report are some of the significant
trends that have occurred in Connecticut's forests over
the last half centur}'^. The reinventor}' of Connecticut's
forest resources involved other associated studies and
considerable analysis. Detailed statistical tables have
been published separately. In addition, information on
Connecticut's private forest-land owners and its primary
forest-products industr}^ is available.
'Gris\vold, Norman B.; Ferguson, Roland H. 1957. The
timber resources of Connecticut. Upper Darby, PA: U.S.
Depart ment of Agriculture, Forest Ser\'ice, Northeastern
Forest Experiment Station. 36 p.
"Dickson, David R.; Bowers, Theresa M. 1976. Forest
statistics for Connecticut. Resour. Bull.
NE-44. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Forest Ser\'ice, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 40 p.
^Dickson, David R.; McAfee, Carol L. 1988. Forest statistics
for Connecticut - 1972 and 1985. Resour. Bull. NE-105.
Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 102 p.
^Alerich, Carol L. 2000. Forest statistics for Connecticut:
1985 and 1998. Resour. Bull. NE-147. Nemown Square, PA:
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Ser\dce, Northeastern
Research Station. 104 p.
Location of Connecticut's Forests
Percentage Forest Land Cover
Haven li?^**dlesex] 63%
Change in Forest Land
Little or no change
(-5.0% to +5.0%)
(-5.0% to -15%)
(+5.0% to +15%)
(greater than +15%)
Land Base Characteristics and Trends
Connecticut's Forests Today
Forest land dominates Connecticut's landscape. About 60 percent of Connecticut is
forested - that's 6 out of every 10 acres. The remaining land is cropland, improved
pasture, and other nonforest land such as housing, commercial and industrial
facilities, rights-of-way, wetlands, and recreational areas.
These forests of Connecticut sweep northward from Long Island Sound, through
the oak- and hickory-dominated woodlands of the Connecticut River Valley and
into the northwestern corner of the State. Here, the foothills of the Berkshires and
New England Highlands begin, along with an increasing predominance of northern
Litchfield County rests in this northwest corner of Connecticut and is the most
heavily forested. More than 75 percent of its land area is covered by forests.
Throughout the remainder of the state, the percentage of forest-land cover falls
below half only in the more heavily urbanized counties of Fairfield and New
Haven. These two counties are the least forested — 37 and 47 percent, respectively.
The Upper Connecticut River Valley county of Hartford is 53 percent forested.
Very little change has occurred since the last inventory in the heavily urban and
suburban counties of southwestern Connecticut. The small increases or declines
have not been significant in these counties. Forest land is being lost, however, in
eastern Connecticut. New London and Windham Counties, both with more than
60 percent forest cover, have shown moderate declines in
forest land — by 5 and 7 percent, respectively. Most of
the increases in forest land have occurred through the
center and into the northwestern part of the state. Forest
cover in Hartford County, in particular, increased by
nearly 23 percent.
Nearly 1.9 million acres of forest land carpet the
Connecticut countryside. But this was not always so. As
nearly two-thirds of original
forests had been converted
to farm land by the middle
of the 19th century. Since
then, the forests of the State
have exhibited their
farmland until by 1952,
forests blanketed more of
Connecticut than at any time
in the last hundred years.
The trend of reverting farm land, however, began to slow
over the last half century. Between the first two
inventories in 1952 and 1972, forest land declined from
1.99 million acres to 1.83 million acres. After the post-
war baby boom in the 1950s and 1960s, people
migrated from the cities. First farm land and then forest
land was converted to home sites and other associated
uses to accommodate a burgeoning suburban
Farm land (cropland and pastures) covers 9 percent of
Connecticut.The amount of pasture land has stabilized
from previous inventories, but cropland continues to
decline. The remaining nonforest land includes not only
land devoted to housing, but also land associated with
urban development: rights-of-way, industrial and
commercial facilities, churches, and schools, etc. These
account for 3 1 percent of the land area, which has been
increasing steadily in Connecticut.
In the 26 years that followed (during which two
additional inventories were conducted) forest land
increased once again - to 1.85 million acres in 1985,
and to 1.86 million acres in 1998. Statistically, these
most recent changes are negligible, and forest land can
be considered to have remained essentially unchanged.
As the forests were returning to Connecticut over the
past decades, a land-hungry population was expanding.
Since 1972, the amount of
new forest land coming from
abandoned farms has roughly
equaled its loss from
development, resulting in a
stable balance. But this trend
is unlikely to continue. There
are no longer large amounts
of marginal farm land
available to revert to forest.
Today, urban development
shows little signs of slowing,
and pressures are increasing on both farm and forest.
As urban development continues to spread, the trend of
a stable forest land base may begin to reverse itself
Connecticut's future forests will be shaped not only by
biological factors, but also by social factors: the need for
more living space and the increasing demands on the
forest brought about by diverse attitudes of the populace,
attitudes that may extend well beyond the borders of
People and the Forest
Population size and how people live on the land are
significant forces in shaping the forest. Between 1953 and
1998, the population of Connecticut grew 51 percent, to
3.3 million people. Today, Connecticut is the fourth most
densely populated state in the nation. Yet it also ranks
13th in percentage of forest cover. Few places have as
many people living among so much woodland.
Altered perceptions about how the State's forest should be
managed have caused more forest land to be reserved for
public use. Public land is the primary location for forest-
related recreation across much of the state. In 1985, 14 percent of the forest land base was
publicly owned, but by 1998 that proportion had risen to 17 percent. County and municipal
lands, in particular, increased by nearly 25 percent - from 86,000 acres to more than 107,000
acres. The amount that the State owns and manages has remained relatively stable, increasing by
only 6,000 acres. Resource management decisions about the public use of Connecticut's forests
are beginning to be made at the local level.
Private forest-land owners comprise the bulk of
owners, controlling 83 percent of the State's
forests. These landowners are farmers (1%),
individuals (54%), corporations (28%) (other
than forest-industry owned lands), and other
miscellaneous groups, such as hunting clubs and
land trusts. The amount of forest land they own
remained essentially unchanged, decreasing by
only 2 percent from the previous inventory.
However, the responsibility for managing
Connecticut's forest land within this private
landowner group has shifted in recent decades.
Some changes have come from forest industry
divestment of land they own. Forest industries
are companies or individuals that operate a
primary or secondary wood-manufacturing
facility. The size of this group has decreased
steadily until by 1998, they controlled only a
negligible amount of forest land. However, an
increase in corporate ownership other than forest
industries has accounted for the largest shift. In 1985, companies owned only 350,000 acres of
forest land. That had increased nearly 50 percent by 1998, to 522,000 acres. Conversely, the area
owned by farmers declined from 153,000 to only 19,000 acres.
The proportion of forest land owned by nonindustrial private forest-land owners has decreased
since the previous inventory, yet this category of owners still predominates. There are 102,000 of
these owners in the State. The size of their holdings vary considerably, which strongly influences
motives and management activities. Owners of large tracts of forest are more likely to manage for
timber products. Private and public water utilities also own some of the largest forested tracts in
Connecticut, but they manage their lands very differently. Owners with tracts of forest land
greater than 100 acres account for only 3 percent of all owners, but collectively they control 48
percent of the forest.
Distribution of Forest-Land
Area by Ownership
Number of Owners and Acres of Forest Land
By Tract Size Class
< \ \ \ % %
Tract Size Class (acres)
Small tracts are usually home sites, and their owners
exhibit a variety of objectives that cover the full
spectrum of management objectives, from the purely
economic to aesthetic enjoyment and safeguarding their
woodland for posterity. Owners of small tracts comprise
the largest number of landowners in Connecticut.
Although many in number, owners with small holdings
account for a small portion of the forest land base.
Almost 85 percent of the private forest landowners hold
tracts less than 20 acres. Three-fourths of the private
forest landowners own fewer than 10 acres and they
collectively own only 9 percent of all forest land in the
The number of these landowners, however, is on the rise.
All private forest landowners with fewer than 50 acres of
forest land have increased by 68 percent since 1975.
The large number of landowners with small tracts of
forest land highlights a growing concern throughout the
northeastern United States - forest fragmentation.
Population growth often is accompanied by increases in
the expansion of residential and urban land uses and the
effects of this urban expansion on forest land are just
beginning to be understood.
Forest fragmentation, or the division of contiguous
forest land into smaller or more complex patches, has
the potential to change local hydrology, reduce forest
interior habitat, increase site disturbances, and promote
the invasion of exotic plant species. Wildlife biologists
have found that breaking up large tracts of forest into
many smaller forests by roads, homes, and other related
land development can be detrimental to many species of
To help answer some important questions about changes
to the Connecticut landscape, a special study involving
aerial photo interpretation was initiated. By looking at
forest inventory data in relation to patch size and nearest
land use, scientists have gained a better understanding of
the extent of fragmentation and effect on the forest
In Connecticut, the most commonly occurring forest
patch size is between 250 and 1,250 acres. Litchfield
County contains the greatest proportion (16.8 percent)
in patches greater than 2,500 acres. Such large,
contiguous forest patches provide unique habitat and
ecological stability for certain animal and plant species
and the data suggest that forests of northwest
Connecticut are less fragmented than elsewhere.
The percentage of urban land is slightly more than 12
percent in Litchfield County compared to the state
average of 26 percent. U.S. Bureau of Census data for
2000 shows that population density in Litchfield
County is also low, about 198 people per square mile.
However, that density has increased by nearly 5 percent
over the last 10 years, and growth such as this will
influence the structure and distribution of forest land in
Small forest patches provide less interior forest habitat
and may increase the forest's susceptibility to diseases
and to the invasion by exotic plant species. Nonforest
land and these smaller forest patches predominate in the
southern and central areas of the State.
The forests of Fairfield County are more highly
fragmented. Nestled in the southwest corner of
Connecticut, it has the least amount of forest land in
relation to total land area, with the remainder of its land
mostly residential. Nearly 39 percent of the total area in
the county is residential land, which accommodates a
population density of more than 1 ,400 people per
Color infrared aerial photography highlights the fragmentation
of forest land due to farmland, urban development, and roads in
Columbia, CT. Currently, studies are being conducted to
characterize this distribution and fragmentation of forest land.
Forest fragmentation indicators were interpreted from aerial
photographs on a grid of points across several northeastern
states, with a sampling intensity of one plot for every 285 acres.
In Connecticut, this involved overlaying a grid of 11,4 1 7 points
on 1 :40,000 aerial photography. Each forested point was analyzed
for three fragmentation indicators: I) the size of the contiguous
forested patch containing the point; 2) the distance from the
point to the nearest developed land use; and 3) the type of
nonforest land use encountered closest to the forested point.
For a more complete description of methods, refer to Reimann
and Tillman (1999).^
^Riemann, Rachel;Tillman, Kathy. 1999. FIA photointerpretation
in Southern New England: a tool to determine forest
fragmentation and proximity to human development. Res.
Pap. NE-709. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest
Service, Northeastern Research Station. 1 2 p.
Average Size of Contiguous Forest Patch at Each Sample Photo Point
Forest patch size (acres)
I I <25 (17.5%)
I I 26- 125 (16.9 %)
I I 126-250 (12.5 %)
[ I Nonforested photo point
251-1,250 (33.8 %)
1,250-2,500 (10.1 %)
2,501 + (9.1 %)
Average Distance of Each Sample Photo Point to the Nearest Nonforest Land Use
I I < 0.125 (67.9 %)
I I 0.125-0.25 (18.3 %)
I I 0.25-0.50 (10.2 % ) I I Nonforested photo point
1.0 + (0.3 %)
square mile. Forest land here occurs in relatively small
patches - more than 20 percent of the sample points
were in forest patches smaller than 2.5 acres in size.
In the entire state, more than 86 percent of the sample
points were within 1/4 mile of a forest edge, and nearly
68 percent were within 1/8 mile. In Fairfield County,
more than 80 percent were within 1/8 mile of the forest
edge. In contrast, Litchfield County
appears to have the greatest amount of
interior forest, based on distance to the
nearest nonforest land use.
Urban and agricultural lands have the potential to
influence bordering forest patches in dififerent ways. The
shape and abruptness of the transition from forest to
nonforest land is related to the type of adjacent land use.
Seed dispersal by animals and wind, as well as local
climate and moisture dynamics, may be affected by the
nonforest land uses surrounding a forest patch.
The potential effects of adjacent nonforest
land on forest composition and structure
depends, in part, on the type of land use
encountered at the forest/nonforest
interface. In Connecticut, residential land
was the most common land use found
closest to the sample points, and
agrictdtural land was the second most
common - 60 percent and 24 percent,
respectively. The proximity to developed
land can subject forest patches to human
influence. It also can increase the amount
of edge habitat, influencing both floral and
faunal species composition.
The classification of timberland as
forest land capable of producing
commercial crops of timber does
not limit its use for other purposes.
Today, timberland is managed
differendy than it has been in the
past, especially in suburban areas.
Privately owned timberland can be
an important source for recreational
opportunities, as the demand for
outdoor experiences rise and land
available for these activities declines.
It also can be preserved as wildland
for posterity. All of these are valuable
commodities from timberland.
These and orher biotic and abiotic factors
affect the composition and structure of
forest patches. Some studies have shown
that forests in urban areas generally have
fewer understory species, lower stem
densities, and greater proportions of non-
native plant species than similar forests in
rural and agricultural areas. Research is
currently under way to better define the
relationship between land-use context,
forest fragmentation, and forest structure
and health. Once these links are better
understood, decisionmakers will be able to
use forest fragmentation information to
make informed development choices.
Forest types are based on relative
stocking and are assigned
according to the most dominant
and codominant trees on the site.
Forest-type groups are composed
of a diverse collection of specific
forest types. For example, the
northern hardv^ood forest-type
group can range from pure stands
of black cherry to mixed stands
containing maple, beech, birch, and
other deciduous species, with no
single species dominating the
An important component of forest land is timberland,
which is forest land that is capable of producing
commercial crops of timber. In Connecticut, timberland
accounts for 91 percent of all forest land. In 1972, there
were 1.81 million acres of timberland. That declined to
1.78 million acres by 1985, though the decline was not
statistically significantly. By 1998, timberland had
declined to 1.70 million acres - again, not significantly
different. In nearly 25 years, the amount of forest land
potentially available for harvesting has shift:ed by only
Noncommercial forest land, the other component of
forest land, includes reserved forest land, unproductive
forests, and urban forests. Harvesting for timber
products on these lands is restricted administratively or
is not economically practical. Examples of
noncommerical forest land include parks, wildlife
preserves, and mountaintops and wetlands with poor
growing conditions — all of which account for only 9
percent of forest land in Connecticut.
The structure of Connecticut's timberlands vary with
the abundance and character of its forests. One common
characteristic that helps describe the landscape is the
distribution of forest-type groups. Connecticut forests
contain a mixture of forest types that are distributed
throughout the State, each helping to define the
character of forests that occur across the hills and river
valleys. Their distribution depends on terrain position,
soil depth, climate, and other factors.
Of the nearly 1.7 million acres of timberland in
Connecticut, about 51 percent is in the oak/hickory
forest-type group. The next most abundant forest-type
group is northern hardwoods, which accounts for 29
percent of timberland. Northern hardwoods are
commercially the most valuable forest-type group, and
one of the more aesthetically pleasing. Other forest type
groups individually account for no more than 9 percent
of the timberland base. But, knowing which are the
most abundant forest types completes only part of the
Area of Timberland by Forest-type Group and County
(in thousands of acres)
TT liltC alMKJ
I CU |JII1C
i CU lildLFlC
h d 1* r1 \X7 n n H
ildl u. w uuti
Total, all counties
'includes spruce/fir (7.0 thousand acres in Litchfield County), hard pine (5.9 thousand acres in New London
County), oak/pine (24.2 thousand acres in Hartford. Litchfield. New London, and Windham Counties), and aspen
and birch (25.2 thousand acres in Hartford, Tolland, and Windham Counties).
Change in Timberland Area by Forest-type Group
200 400 600 800 1,000
'includes the spruce/fir, hard pine, oak/pine, and aspen/birch forest-type groups
Spatial and temporal information about different forest types also helps illuminate prevailing
forest conditions. For example, most of the white/red pine forest-type group can be found along
the northern edge of the state, concentrated mainly in Litchfield County. Any spruce and fir
that can be found will most likely occur here as well. The hard pine group, which includes the
eastern redcedar forest type, is found primarily in New London County. Aspen/birch forest-type
group is found in Hartford County; the elm/ash/red maple forest- type group is distributed
evenly throughout Connecticut.
While the oak/hickory group predominates in every part of Connecticut, it begins to lose
its dominance in the northwestern corner of the state. In Litchfield County, oak and
hickory forests account for 43 percent of the timberland area, while northern hardwoods
account for 38 percent - almost an equal distribution. Conditions in this corner of the
state are sufficiently different from the rest of Connecticut that a different kind of forest
can be found, one which includes the possibility of finding rarer species, such as spruce
While the oak/hickory forest-type group continues to prevail throughout the state, its area
has been decreasing for many years. Oak forests once flourished because of prevailing
timber harvesting practices and other disturbances associated with wildfires. Oaks are
more resistant to fire damage due to their bark, and resprout more easily than other
species after a fire. Oaks also benefit from openings that result from timber harvests. At
the time of the first inventory in 1952, there were 2.7 million acres of oak and hickory.
That area declined 57 percent to 1.155 million acres in 1972, 21 percent to 913.8
thousand acres in 1985, and 4 percent to 875.8 thousand acres in 1998.
The white/ red pine, and elm/ash/red maple forest- type
groups have declined as well. During the previous
inventory, both showed an increase. At that time, white
pine had exhibited a reversal from the devastation of the
1938 hurricane. Elm, ash, and red maple had increased
largely due to the continued abandonment of farmland.
The species in this forest type are some of the first found in
old fields, particularly in the more moist, bottomland sites.
Since that time, however, farmland abandonment has
declined, as have these pioneer species.
Composition and Structure of the Forest
Connecticut's forests are interwoven with a rich tapestry of biological diversity. All kinds
of forest vegetation — living trees and shrubs, dead and downed woody stems, microflora,
lichens, mosses, and herbaceous plants - contribute to a diverse habitat for wildlife. This
diversity supplies forage, shelter for forest-dwelling wildlife and wildlife that inhabit
forest-dependent aquatic systems, and the invaluable edge characteristics that exist
between forest and other land uses.
The continued maturing of Connecticut's
forests, recurring apprehension about
over-harvesting and high-grading, and the
control of wildfires have resulted in a lack
of disturbance that once promoted oak
regeneration. That, as well as urban
expansion, tree mortality from gypsy moth,
and deer browse of established seedlings,
have contributed to the decline of the oak-
dominated forests of Connecticut.
Species diversity is evident in the number of different species encountered. The forest
inventory identified 82 different tree and shrub species. Among shrub species, blueberry
clearly predominates - the 2nd through 10th most abundant shrub species are found in
nearly equal abundance. Eastern white pine is the most common softwood tree species
encountered in terms of numbers of stems. But Connecticut's forests are flush with a
variety of hardwood tree species that bring richness to the forest landscape, the most
common of which are red maple, black cherry, and sweet birch.
However, not all species are welcome. Connecticut contains a variety of invasive or
potentially invasive plants. These are species that, either by accident or intentionally, tend
to replace other species and become dominant, reducing species diversity. Some of the
more widespread in Connecticut include tree-of-heaven, Japanese barberry, Asiatic
bittersweet, autumn olive, winged euonymus, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose.
Top Ten Shrub Species
Northern red oak
Eastern white pine
36 species of shrubs were tallied
on Connecticut's timberlands
Top Ten Tree Species
Occurrence of Invasive Species on
Forest Inventory and Analysis Plots
10 20 30
Number of Plots
During the 1998 inventory, several invasive
species were encountered on 268 of the forested
field plots. Honeysuckle and barberry were found
to be the most pervasive. Four of the species
combined — honeysuckle, barberry, tree-of-heaven,
and rose species — were the predominant invasive
species encountered on the forested plots.
While a few notable species - bittersweet, autumn
olive, euonymus, and Norway maple - were not
encountered, they can still exist in profusion.
Frequency of encounter is a function of sampling
intensity and natural growing conditions. Invasive
species frequently found in open fields, riparian
areas, or shorelines, are less likely to be
encountered in forest inventories.
Timber Volume Changes
The volume of trees in Connecticut has been increasing
steadily for more than half a century. At the time of the
first inventory, there were 1.3 billion ft^ of growing
stock. By 1972 and 1985, that amount increased to 2.3
billion ft^and 2.8 billion ft^, respectively. But during the
most recent inventory, Connecticut's growing stock
increased to 3.2 billion ft^. That's nearly a 14 percent
increase since the last inventory, and more than double
what was there in 1952.
About two-thirds of the total volume contained in
Connecticut's forests is
comprised of broadleaf and
deciduous, or "hardwood"
species. The remainder is
comprised of coniferous, or
"softwood" species. At first, a
Growing-stock volume is the cubic-foot volume in trees
5 inches (d.b.h.) and larger, between a I -foot stump and a
4-inch top diameter outside the bark, or until the stem
breaks into branches before that point.
Sawtimber volume is board-foot volume: for softwoods
- it is in trees 9 inches d.b.h. and larger, to a 7-inch top
diameter outside the bark, or until the stem breaks into
branches before that point. For hardwoods, it is in trees
1 1 inches d.b.h. and larger, to a 9-inch top diameter outside
the bark, or until the stem breaks into branches.
small increase of softwood species occurred, but
sofhvood volumes have remained stable over the past few
decades. Almost all of the recent increases in growing-
stock volume have been due to increases in hardwood
The same trend can be found in sav^aimber. Between
1952 and 1972, there were significant increases in
softwood sawtimber volume. Since then, sawtimber
volume has been steadily increasing almost entirely due
to hardwood sawtimber. Between 1952 and 1972,
sawtimber volume increased from 1.9 billion board feet
to 5.4 billion board feet -
nearly tripling. More recent
increases have not been so
extreme: 41 percent between
1972 and 1985, and 20
percent between 1985 and
Change in Growing-stock Volume on Timberland
1953 1972 1985 1998
Change in the Sawtimber Volume on Timberland
1953 1972 1985 1998
HOW WERE THESE MAPS CREATED?
These maps were created using an estimation procedure
called sequential Gaussian conditional simulation. Forested
plots were used as "known" data and we predicted values at
unknown locations using information found at these known
locations. For example, an unknown area near a group of
plots with large amounts of hemlock probably has high
amounts of hemlock as well. Using this principle, we made
predictions at every location on the map. The values are
actually "relative importance," or the relative proportion of
that species' basal area.
Species Distribution of Selected Softwood Species
Distribution of Tree Species
The forests of Connecticut contain a remarkable
mixture of tree species. The distribution is determined
by each species' suitabihry to site conditions and past
Site conditions include attributes such as soil type,
drainage, terrain, and competition from other species.
Conditions also vary by the numbers and types of
mammals present. Deer, mice, and squirrels influence
the composition of the forest by browsing seedlings or
consuming available seeds of preferred species.
Disturbance is caused by natural events and human
activity: fire, windthrow, insect outbreaks, harvesting,
and land clearing followed by abandonment. These and
other factors acting together over time have shaped
Hemlock is the most abundant softwood species in
terms of growing-stock volume and is concentrated in
the northwestern corner of Connecticut. Extracts from
its bark produced a tanning agent called tannin and
once played a key role in the manufacture of natural
leathers. Over the years, tannin was replaced by
synthetic agents and the demand for hemlock bark
subsided. Likewise, hemlock was not a preferred species
for charcoal production. Because of these factors, and
also because of fewer markets for hemlock framing
lumber, the harvesting of hemlock declined.
However, since the previous inventory, hemlock
growing-stock volume has remained essentially
unchanged, unable to keep pace with the general increase
in growing-stock volume for all species. In 1985, its
growing-stock volume was 216 million ft^. By 1998, it
had increased to 225 million ft^ — only a 4 percent
increase. During that time, hemlock sawtimber volumes
declined. The hemlock wooly adelgid probably has
contributed to keep hemlock volume increases down.
The other major softwood species in Connecticut —
eastern white pine - can be found growing abundantly
along the rolling hills adjacent to the Massachusetts
border in about the same region as hemlock. It grows
best on the deep, well-drained fertile soils of glacially
deposited sands or gravels, and in cooler climates. These
conditions are common here and to a certain extent limit
competition from hardwoods. But some of the highest
quality stands also can occur on pockets of land that
were once cleared for agriculture - land that might be
found in the far eastern portion of the state along the
Rhode Island border.
Since the previous inventory, white pine growing-stock
volume has increased from 167 million fi:^ to 214
million ft^ of growing stock - a 27 percent increase. Its
sawtimber volume increases have been even greater - 33
percent. Left to flourish after the extensive damage
caused by the 1938 hurricane, much of the white pine
Species Distribution of Selected Hardwood Species
that remained has now grown into sawtimber-size trees.
Generally, increases of growing stock volume have been
facilitated by the vestiges of farm abandonment.
Northern red oak and white pine commonly are found
growing in association with one another and their
distributions are somewhat similar. Northern red oak is
a major component of the oak/hickory forest-type group
and also an associate of the northern hardwoods forest-
type group, both of which are found in almost equal
distribution in northwestern Connecticut. At one time
northern red oak was the leading species in both
growing-stock and sawtimber volume. It now ranks
second to red maple in growing-stock volume but
remains the leading sawtimber species, with a volume
that has increased by 16 and 24 percent over the past
In addition to northern red oak, white oak and three
other species of the red oak subfamily were also tallied.
These other red oaks include scarlet oak, pin oak, and
black oak. Some chestnut oaks were encountered, but in
such small amounts that they were included under other
hardwoods. Red oaks (other than northern red oak)
usually are found distributed along the southern tier of
Connecticut counties in the well-drained upland soils.
There is a small pocket in the very northeastern corner
that extends into the state from Rhode Island. This
pocket is most likely scarlet oak, which is found on dry
ridges and south facing slopes. Other red oaks
consistently have increased in both growing-stock and
White oak exists throughout much of eastern
Connecticut but is heavily concentrated in Middlesex
County, along the banks of the lower Connecticut River
as it flows out of the New England Highlands and into
Long Island Sound. This pocket of white oak is
surrounded by less of an urban population than
surrounding areas. While growing stock volume has
shown essentially no increase, 175 million ft"* to 178
million ft', sawtimber volume has increased by 8
percent. Much of the volume in this stately citizen of the
woods is primarily found growing in the small forested
patches that are primarily sites for larger homes and
estates, bringing peace and tranquility to its
surroundings. Elsewhere, it forms a minor component
of Connecticut's woodlands.
Sugar maple is one of the most valuable species in
Connecticut, prized for its wood, maple-syrup
production, and beauty. Who can deny the impact that
Change in Growing-stock and Sawtimber Volume on Timberland
for the Top Ten Growing-stock Species
Northern red oak
Other red oaks
Eastern white pine
200 400 600
Million Cubic Feet
500 1,000 1,500
Million Board Feet
Biomass of All Live Trees and Shrubs
by County and Component on Forest Land
Merchantable bole of
SapHngs (1.0-4.9 in. d.b.h.)
15 20 25
Million Dry Tons
of growing-stock trees'
SeedUngs (<1.0 in. d.b.h.)
Cull trees and
salvable dead trees
'Includes the branches, foliage, and stump-root system of growing-stick trees only.
^Includes the biomass of all components on reserved forest land, unproductive forests, and urban forests.
its splash of bright golden foliage has on the visual
appeal of autumn in Connecticut? Yet, it's likely that the
value it holds as a high-quality hardwood is what keeps
volume increases low. Since 1985, sugar maple has
remained essentially unchanged in terms of growing-
stock and sawtimber volume.
Red maple and sweet birch are adapted to a broad range
of growing conditions and can be found in heavy
concentrations across the state. Red maple in particular
- the leading species in terms of growing-stock volume -
increased by nearly 65 percent between 1972 and 1985.
That tapered off to only 9 percent between 1985 and
1998. Red maple is a volunteer species on abandoned
farmland, especially on moister sites. Cutting practices
that remove more valuable species and leave the less-
valued red maple probably promoted its volume
increases more than any other factor. But since red
maple is not long-lived, species such as northern red oak
may be starting to reassert their dominance, especially in
terms of sawtimber volume.
Standard means of measuring the forest - in terms of
cubic feet and board feet, for example - often miss a
significant portion of the total forest resource and in
many cases account for only half of the woody material
contained in trees and shrubs. One way to capture this
missing material is to measure it in terms of weight, or
biomass. This is most often reported in dry tons. In
1998, the forests of Connecticut contained more than
161 million dry tons of trees and shrubs.
Most of the forest biomass was in growing stock -
almost 54 percent. The remainder was in nongrowing-
stock components: portions of growing-stock trees
outside of the merchantable bole (25 percent), cull trees
and salvable dead trees (8 percent), saplings between 1
and 5 inches diameter at breast height (d.b.h.) (4
percent), small material such as seedlings and shrubs (1
percent), and biomass on the reminder of the forest land
base besides timberland (8 percent). The bulk of the
biomass resource is concentrated in Litchfield County,
but Fairfield County contains a substantial proportion
of biomass on noncommerical forest land.
Area of Timberland by Stocking Class
(based on growing-stock trees)
400 600 800
Forest biomass can play an important role in the world's
carbon cycle. Trees and shrubs act as carbon sinks,
removing carbon from the atmosphere in the form of
carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and storing it in the
form of cellulose. It's possible that forest vegetation my
help mitigate the effects of increased carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.
If so, increases in biomass show that in the future,
Connecticut's forests could play an increasing important
role in carbon sequestering and associated global
Levels of Stocking
The numbers of trees per acre and tree size determine
how well a stand is stocked. Stocking measures indicate
how well a site is being utilized to grow trees of
economic value. In fuUy stocked stands, trees are fully
using the potential of the site. If allowed to continue to
grow, these stands will eventually become overstocked.
In overstocked stands, trees are crowded and growth
slows. Trees in these stands are less vigorous and more
susceptible to insect and disease damage. If not thinned
or harvested, commercially valuable trees may die and
their value for timber products lost. Good forest
management involves reducing overstocked and fully
stocked stands to a moderately stocked level through
thinning or harvesting, which includes thinning and
other silvicultural treatments.
Poorly stocked stands have widely spaced trees, are
occupied with trees of little or no commercial value, and
with little or no regeneration. These stands often are the
result of harvesting only the best and biggest trees,
leaving trees of poor form and undesirable species. The
result is large gaps in the forest canopy in which no
desirable regeneration exists. Poorly stocked stands are
difficult to manage because they will not mature into a
fully stocked condition in a reasonable amount of time.
Historically, Connecticut's forests have shown an
increase in stocking levels. The number of acres of
poorly and moderately stocked stands has decreased,
while the area of hilly-stocked stands have increased. At
the same time, a more productive forest has been
maintained through declining levels of over-stocked
stands. The increased number of fully-stocked stands
present opportunities for management without
decreasing forest growth. Management of these stands
can prevent them from becoming overstocked. At
present, there are very few over-stocked stands and few
Today, Connecticut forests contain an abundant supply of nearly every size tree. There have
been substantial increases in almost every diameter class except for small trees, and a shift
toward the larger diameter classes.
The value of a tree for timber products rises as the tree becomes large enough to produce higher
value products. Value increases first as trees grows large enough to produce small sawlogs
(greater than 9 inches d.b.h. for softwoods and 11 inches d.b.h. for hardwoods), and again as
the trees grow large enough to produce high-grade sawlogs or veneer logs (greater than 1 5
inches d.b.h.). Large trees with boles free from branches produce the clear lumber that is sought
by furniture makers.
While timberland in Connecticut remained essentially unchanged, the inventory of growing-
stock volume increased 16 percent since the previous inventory. This is largely due to a
declining demand for timber, a slackening of past timber harvesting practices, and continued
recovery from storm damages. Younger stands with trees between 5 and 9 inches d.b.h.
represent the future of Connecticut's forests and have declined by 14 percent. This decrease is a
concern to forest resource managers.
A 27 percent decrease in the volume of oak species in the
smaller diameter classes was largely responsible for the
shift. Most oak species are slow growing and it might be
necessary to consider aggressive silvicultural treatments in
the fiiture to encourage oak regeneration.
The portion of trees that are large enough to produce
sawlogs (sawtimber) increased by 20 percent, to 9.2
billion board feet. These are the trees that yield high
quality stems from timberlands.
Foresters measure tree diameters at AV^ feet above the
ground and refer to this as d.b.h. (diameter at breast height).
Growing stock is the volume of commercially acceptable
trees 5 inches d.b.h. and larger, from a I -foot stump height
to a 4-inch top diameter (outside bark), or until the stem
breaks into branches. In a maturing resource, curves of
growing-stock diameter class distribution (based on d.b.h.),
show not only an increase in each class, but also a move
toward the larger diameter classes. This was the case in
Connecticut, as the average d.b.h. increased to 9.8 inches.
Change in Growing-stock Volume on Timberland by Diameter Class
^ ^ ^
Diameter Class (inches at breast height)
Sawlogs of tree grade 1 and 2 are the most
sought after because they yield more volume
in the better lumber grades when
manufactured into high value-added
products, such as furniture. Connecticut is
endowed with a unique mixture of tree
species preferred by manufacturers of
quality wood products. These preferred
species — red oak, ash, maple, and birch —
are in an abundant and increasing supply.
The quality of Connecticut's hardwood
sawtimber is relatively high. Within
softwoods - almost all of which is white
pine and hemlock - quality is sometimes
poor. Hemlock is graded difiPerently than
other species. It is either acceptable or very
poor. Fifty-eight percent of hemlock
sawtimber volume is acceptable. The
remainder is graded as very poor. This may
be due to the consequences of more than 10
years of hemlock woolly adelgid infestation
and other factors affecting hemlock quality.
Eastern white pine is a valuable softwood species. However, most of its sawtimber volume
in Connecticut is of poorer quality. About 84 percent, or 700 million board feet, is in tree
grade 3, 4, and 5. Only 128 million board
feet are in the more preferred tree grades.
Many white pine trees have poor form
because they were either open grown or
attacked by the white pine weevil.
Tree grade is a rating of sawtimber quality based on a
classification system of guidelines for hardwoods, white pine,
and southern pine. General/, the lower th number, the higher
the quality and the higher the value. The ability of a tree to
produce high quality sawlogs can be enhanced by thinning
and pruning it. This is especially helpful in white pine since it
exhibits an excurrant branching habit, or branching throughout
the entire length of the tree bole. This picture shows white
pine that have been pruned.
Distribution of White Pine and Hemlock
Sawtimber on Timberland by Tree Grade
White pine Hemlock
Hardwoods generally are in much better
shape. Fifty-eight percent of the hardwood
sawtimber volume is in trees of sufficient size
to produce grade 1 logs. Of these, about 65
percent are in tree grades 1 or 2. The more
valuable species have greater volumes in these
better tree grades, but that's not true for all
Northern red oak has the largest portion of
trees over 15 inches d.b.h. in tree grade 1.
Sixty-six percent of the volume of large
northern red oaks is in tree grade 1 . It is
followed by other red oaks (scarlet, pin, and
black oak), red maple, and white ash. Other
hardwood species have considerably fewer
grade 1 trees.
Distribution of Hardwood Sawtimber Volume
on Timberland by Size and Tree Grade
Million Board Feet
The gromh characteristics of red maple cause it to
have more defects than other species, so it tends to
contain less commercially valuable material. It is only
the high volume of red maple encountered in the state
that allows it to remain among the top species in terms
of grade. While it had more than 332 million board
feet in grades 1 and 2, only 36 percent of its sawtimber
volume was in trees at least 15 inches d.b.h. Almost
328 million board feet were in tree grade 5.
Products from Connecticut's Trees
From the verv' beginning of European colonization,
tree har\'esting was an integral part of life in
Connecticut. Early settlers relied on forests as a source
of raw materials for daily life and looked for means to
har\'est and process its bounn^ more quickly and easily.
The earliest sawmill in New England was operating
near York, Maine in 1623, and by 1645 there was a
mill operating in Farmington, Connecticut.
But these early sawmills bear little resemblance to their
modern descendents. Usually they contained a single
saw, with an up-and-down motion powered by water
and hand-fed logs. Their shrill scream and slow
progress soon gave way to parallel gang saws, usually
using four blades and a water-powered feed system.
The numerous local mills in operation and the
extensive har\Tsting of massive spar trees destined for
foreign shipbuilders soon began to take a toll on
Connecticut s timber supply. White pine also was used
by clapboard and shingle mills, which might well have
Use of Harvested Trees
been the single greatest danger to the white pine
reserves. Timber shortages began to appear.
Overseas markets were strong for other species as well.
Oaks were particularly valuable for barrels and casks in
addition to building materials.
Lumber production continued to rise steadily through
Connecticut's early histor}'^. Furniture, blanks for tool
handles, rails for fences, and studs for bridges were all
important products that were manufactured along with
what the sawmills produced to construct the homes and
buildings to expand their communities. By 1869, these
mills were producing 56 million board feet of lumber
Lumber production began to slump toward the end of
the 19'*' century. At that time, much of the state's forests
were cut heavily for charcoal production and little
hardwood timber may have been allowed to grow large
enough to produce acceptable boards. Production
rebounded, however, when processors found lucrative
pine-box markets for softwoods. Lumber production
peaked in 1909 at 168 million board feet, which was
primarily due to these new markets.
Never again would Connecticut record the high volumes
of lumber production that it had at the turn of the
previous century, as production steadily dropped for the
next quarter century. During this period, suitable pines
from Connecticut's "Second Forest" became harder to
find. By the 1920s, the softwood industry had shifted to
the South and Lake States. The state became a softwood
importer rather than a softwood producer and thereafter
produced predominantly hardwood lumber, which
recovered after the nation found coal to be a cheaper
form of energy near the turn of the century.
Lumber Production^ in Connecticut, 1799 - 1998
1870 1880 1890
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980
^Sources: Steer, Henry B. 1948. Lumber production in the United States, 1799-1946. U.S. Forest Service,
Division of Forest Economics. 233 p. U.S. Bureau of Census, Current Industrial Reports.
Between 1929 and 1933, lumber production hit
bottom, coinciding with the national economic collapse.
In 1932, sawmills in Connecticut produced a record low
of only 8 million board feet of lumber. In just 25 years,
lumber production had declined 95 percent. But the
nation's economy would eventually recover, as would
Connecticut's timber industry.
Improvement was at first sparked by wartime demand
for raw materials. It was followed quickly by post-war
housing demand that stimulated an influx of mostly
low-capacity sawmills. But by the early 1 960s, the
circumstances that had been responsible for rapid
increases in lumber production essentially disappeared
and so too did the smaller facilities. As production
returned to pre-depression levels, the cost of
maintaining low-capacity mills skyrocketed and the
industry increasingly shifted to fewer mills of greater
production capacity. What followed was long-term
growth under normal economic conditions, helped at
times by the development of products such as wooden
pallets that more fully utilized low-quality hardwoods.
When trees are harvested today, the high-quality lower
trunk of the tree is used for lumber, while the upper
stem, large branches, small trees, and undesirable species
are used for lower value-added products, pulpwood, and
fuelwood. Parts of the tree that can't be used and have
no markets are left in the woods as logging residue. In
Connecticut, 32 percent of the volume of trees that is
harvested is used for industrial products (sawlogs and
pulpwood), 50 percent is used as ftielwood, and 18
percent is logging residue.
Sawlogs remain the primary industrial use of wood
harvested in Connecticut. Lumber produced from
Connecticut's red oaks is highly valued and is the basis
for nearly half of Connecticut's timber harvesting
activities. By the mid-1980s, almost 67 million board
feet of sawlogs were harvested annually. About 45
percent, or 30 million board feet, of the sawlogs were
red oak. Softwood sawlog production, however, is
almost as high. The volume harvested from the primary
softwoods —pine and hemlock — was nearly 21 million
Some pulpwood is produced, but only in small
amounts. None is used within the state but pulp mills in
neighboring states provide an important market for low-
value wood from Connecticut. In 1996, about 3,000
cords of pulpwood were shipped out of the state, almost
all of which was hemlock. By that time, there was only a
handfijl of pulp mills located within 200 miles of
Connecticut's western border - in New York and
northeastern Pennsylvania. Yet the region remains a
center for the production of fine papers.
In 1997 there were 36 paper mills remaining in
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont - 22 in
Massachusetts alone. These mills produce specialty-
grade papers such as ledger stock, fine writing paper,
glassine, carbons, and blank-note papers. They utilize
Sawlog Production in the Mid-1980s
Roundwood consists of logs, bolts, and
other round, split, or chipped tinnber
products generated by harvesting
trees for industrial or consumer use.
Roundwood is comnnonly nneasured in
board feet for sawlogs and veneer logs,
cords for pulpwood, and cubic feet for
— 1 —
Million Board Feet
pulp purchased from manufacturers of other products and provide a valuable market for
wood harvested from Connecticut.
Forest products other than sawlogs and pulpwood are no longer manufactured to any great
extent in Connecticut. At one time, there was a thriving softwood wooden box industry and
softwood cooperage products, such as fish pails and butter firkins, were an important part of
the state's economy. Markets for similar specialty products had risen substantially by the early
1970s, but by the mid 1980s only 4 percent of total industrial roundwood production in
Connecticut was for other products — primarily veneer logs, cabin logs, posts, and poles.
Almost all of the other products had been displaced by substitute products.
Fuelwood remains the leading product harvested from trees in Connecticut. In the early
1970s, an oil embargo and the desire for self-sufficiency by many Connecticut residents
brought about a upsurge in residential fiielwood use. While it has not reached the maximum
use it once had, fiielwood use remains significant.
Some households in Connecticut are still dependant to some extent on wood for fuel. But
fuelwood includes not only what is used by many homeowners who burn wood for heat, it
includes wood burned in commercial facilities as well. In 1996, there were more than
210,000 cords of wood used for fuelwood, nearly all of which came from hardwood species.
About three-fourths of this wood came from nongrowing-stock sources - dead and cull trees
from the forest and trees from fences rows and yards. Fuel is an ideal use for this kind of
material since it has little commercial value otherwise.
modernized. The sight of buckets hanging from
sugar maple trees in late winter is no longer as
common as it once was, since today most sap can
be gathered by plastic tubing. Today, sugaring is
one of the few remaining viable cottage industries.
Local farmers or woodlot owners with a saphouse
can market their product directly or sell it
wholesale to specialty shops and stores.
For many in Connecticut today, products from the woods are part of a traditional way of life
and can contribute additional income. There are a host of these other forest products. The
most common is maple sugar, but lesser recognized products also abound and remain an
integral part of many rural communities. These include boughs and floral greenery; weaving
and dyeing materials; botanical flavorings and medicinal herbs, such as ginseng, cultivated
and wild mushroom production; and cones, berries, and numerous other specialty and
novelty items gathered from trees. Also,
Connecticut has the distinction of supporting
American Distilling, which is one of the last
remaining manufacturers of witch-hazel extract
and is located in East Hampton.
Unlike coal and oil reserves, the forest resource
renews itself, as evidenced by the return of
Connecticut's forests following past abuses.
Trees can be thought of as a crop - they can be
cut today and by future generations if nothing is
done to degrade their productive capacity. The
state's forests have been repeatedly harvested for
various wood products but remain productive
and continue to provide a host of benefits.
Except for parks and forest preserves, nearly all
forests have been harvested three or more times.
The sustainability of today's forests is aided by
regulations and adoption of the best
management practices available.
Average Use of Fuelwood Per Household, 1996
Average Annual Net Growth and Removals*
Top 12 species
(Thousand cubic feet)
(Thousand cubic feet)
Growth to Removals
2.1 : 1
Northern red oak
2.2 : 1
Other red oaks
1.3 : 1
5.1 : 1
3.6 : 1
12.6 : 1
1.3 : 1
1.5 : 1
6.5 : 1
1.2 : 1
6.7 : 1
3.0 : 1
2.2 : 1
* Estimates of growth and removals are made only from remeasured plots.
* These estimates can differ from volume change estimates that are made using all plots.
Sustainability of the Timber Supply
The ability of forests to sustain themselves is measured
by their ratio of growth to removals. Net growth is the
total growth of trees, plus gains from land coming into
forest, minus losses to mortality from insect and disease
outbreaks and disturbances such as and wind and ice
storms. Removals include harvesting plus losses due to
changes in land use.
In Connecticut, the net growth of trees has exceeded
removals since the first inventory in 1952. Between
1985 and 1998, annual net growth averaged 55.7
million ft^ and annual removals averaged 25.5 million
ft^. Of the volume removed from timberlands, 62
percent is attributed to harvesting and 38 percent to the
conversion of forests to nonforest uses or the
reclassification of forest land to a reserved or other
noncommercial forest land category. The surplus growth
over removals yields an annual net increase of 34.8
million fi;^ — a 1 percent annual increase.
The ratio of net growth (which includes losses from
natural mortality) to removals has averaged about
2.2 : 1 over the past decade. That is, 2.2 times as much
wood was grown as was being cut or removed. The
growth of trees has exceeded harvesting since the first
inventory in 1952, and today's well-stocked stands are
the result of these steady gains that have been
accumulating in Connecticut's standing forest.
The ratio of growth-to-removals (G/R) varies among
species. Comparing ratios for individual species to the
average for all species indicates relative changes for each
species, and helps explain change in the structure and
composition of a forest. Species with the most favorable
G/R ratios are hemlock, sugar maple, beech, and birch;
these species are increasing in the portion of the total
resource they represent.
Until recently, cutting pressure has been greater on
softwood species (other than hemlock) than on
hardwoods. Ratios of less than 1.0 occur where removals
exceed growth. During the period covered by the most
recent inventory (1985-1998), no important species had
a G/R ratio less than 1.0, although a few - red maple,
white oak, other red oaks, hickory, and ash — fell below
the state average.
Natural stresses have always challenged the health of
forests. Damage from biotic agents, such as insects and
diseases, consistently plague the vitality of trees. Diverse
abiotic agents have confounded those practicing sound
forest management since mankind first decided he could
control the forest. Thousands of acres of Connecticut's
forests were killed or declined due to the effects of
frost, drought or flooding (the latter attributed to
Two pests in particular have extracted a heavy toll
on the forests of Connecticut over the years:
chestnut blight and the gypsy moth caterpillar. At
one time the forested landscape of Connecticut was
dominated by American chestnut trees. This
majestic giant of the woods had been a staple in
home construction and furniture manufacturing for
many years. Imposing chestnut beams and joists still
found in older homes attest to its importance. In
1904, an Asian fungus was discovered in the Bronx
Zoo. By 1920, the fungus had either killed or infected
almost every mature chestnut tree in Connecticut. It is
also commonly found on oaks - white oaks in
particular. There is so little that can be done to control
this disease under forest conditions that American
chestnut today is relegated to an understory species.
These once-proud trees now simply sprout from tree
stumps, become infected, die back, and resprout.
The spread of gypsy moth also has been well
documented. Gypsy moth was introduced into the
United States in 1869 by a French scientist in
Massachusetts. The first outbreak occurred in 1889 and
by 1905, it had reached Connecticut. For nearly 100
years, it has established itself throughout the state,
though at times population levels have plummeted. In
the late 1 970s, Connecticut was almost free of this
persistent pest, but that was soon followed by an
Adult gypsy moth
extensive outbreak. In the mid 1980s, the gypsy moth
caterpillar had defoliated about 15,000 acres in a single
year. Since that time, populations have declined and
over the past decade have been uncharacteristically low.
This may be due to a number of agents, including
insects and birds that feed on eggs and early instars, and
a fungus that infects the caterpillar. Persistent efforts of
control have helped to contain its damaging effects.
A number of insects and diseases have
left their imprint on Connecticut's forests
over the years. The most recent is the
hemlock woolly adelgid. Currently, no
known control of this aphid exists and
hemlocks continue to decline throughout
the state. Drought and mild winters allow
the adelgid to proliferate.
A more recently discovered insect is causing widespread
mortality in hemlocks. Initially identified in 1924 as
originating from Asia, the hemlock woolly adelgid was
discovered along the coast of Connecticut in 1985 and
heavy infestations have occurred throughout the state
since then. This aphid sucks the sap of young twigs,
causing almost complete defoliation within a few years.
A quarantine on nursery stock from heavily infested
states like Connecticut was imposed, yet recent
infestations have been found in surrounding states
which has raised widespread concern about its
continued spread. Effective control of the insect is still
unknown, though promising research is currently under
way at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
on a biological control agent.
Elm is a minor species in Connecticut's forests bur its
charm and ability to grow well in compacted soils and
under polluted conditions have made it a favorite in
urban settings for years. But in the 1930s, diseased logs
from Europe brought a deadly disease carried by an
insect - Dutch elm disease. Since then, it has killed
almost all the elms and constantly threatens those that
remain. Control under forest conditions is impractical
since sanitation is the only viable alternative.
Average Annual Growing-stock Mortality
(as a percentage of standing growing-stoclt volume)
White ash ^^Hj^^l^^H^^^H^^Hjjj^^^Hj^^^^Hi 1.52
White oak ^^^Hl^^HIIIHjj^^l 0.88
Red maple ^^^M^^^^^B \ 0.58
Other oaks plHIHillH^I^H 0.55
Birch ■■■■■■■■I 0.49
Northern red oak HHIHHHHI 0.45
Hemlock Hl^^^^^^l 0.43 ^^^^^^^^^^^^B^^^^^^^l
White pine pi^^^l 0.32 InPPiifPPliPRPIliP^
Sugar maple 0.15 i ^^MMMBMMHI^WMHMMBWI
0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Percent of Growing-stock Volume
When butternut trees develop cankers on twigs,
branches, and stems, and then quickly deteriorate, look
for the butternut canker to be present. This a fungus
was first discovered in 1967 in the north central United
States, but has quickly spread in the past 30 years. As
yet, there is no known control for the disease, but a few
native butternut trees have shown resistance to the
disease. Both Connecticut and New Hampshire are
cooperating with the USDA Forest Service to locate
healthy trees and graft material to test for disease
Of growing concern is the vVsian
longhorned beetle. Largely limited
to maple species in Connecticut
near the New York border, this
introduced pest girdles trees by
the tunneling activity of the beetle
larvae. It was first discovered in
New York City in 1996, but an
extensive program of eradication
is currently being conducted and
heavily infested areas have been
quarantined. Surveys to monitor
spread and provide early detection
of this damaging insect continue to be conducted
throughout much of southern Connecticut.
A cousin, the recently introduced Japanese cedar
longhorned beetle, was discovered in Milford in the fall
of 1998. This small pest poses a serious threat in
Connecticut nurseries, many of which have been
inspected. Infestations also have been found in in
Greenwich, North Haven, and Stamford. Since it has so
recently been introduced, research to study the insect's
development and possible control is still in its infancy.
Other pests that infect Connecticut's trees occur
periodically, usually when the trees are stressed from
environmental conditions, such as drought. Known
pests include: dogwood anthracnose fungus, which
causes tan, circular leaf-spots surrounded by purple
borders that can progress into necrotic veins and leaf
margins, and eventual dieback; pear thrips, which are a
serious pest of sugar maple and whose population
increases may be tied to years of heavy sugar maple
flowering; white pine blister rust, which continues to
cause dieback in mature trees
and mortality of seedlings and
saplings; and beech bark
disease, carried by the beech
scale, continues to cause
Signs of damage from Asian longhorned beetles
Insects, disease, fire, wind, ice,
and other destructive agents
have contributed to tree
mortality in Connecticut. But
in general, the primary species
of Connecticut's forests are
healthy. Between 1985 and
1998, annual mortality
averaged more than 1 6 million fi:"* of growing stock, or
0.58 percent of the standing growing-stock volume of
1998. Important tree species suffering the most
mortality (higher than the average for all species) were
white ash, white oak, and hickory. However, not even
the most affected species of white ash approaches the
level of mortality experienced by a tree species in serious
danger. For example, the mortality rate for elm, after
nearly a century of Dutch elm disease, is almost 4
percent of its growing-stock volume.
Select white oak
Other red oaks
Select red oak
Percent Dieback for Trees Measured 1996-1999
For All Species and Selected Species
6 - 20 %
0% 20% 40% 60%
For years, Connecticut residents have heard warnings
about potential for withering vegetation, wide-spread
defohation, and denuded hillsides brought about by new
damaging agents such as acid deposition and various
other environmental instruments. Indeed, new
challenges seem to appear each year. In response to this,
The USDA's Forest Health Monitoring Program was
established to monitor trends in the health of forest
ecosystems. It is a national program implemented with
the cooperation of individual states. In Connecticut,
measurements were taken from 1996 to 1999 and
included a wide set of indicators which reflect forest
conditions. One of these measures is crown dieback.
Crown dieback occurs in the upper and outer portions
of a tree and represents recent branch mortality, which
begins at the tip of a branch and proceeds toward the
trunk. It can be a sign that the tree is suffering from
health problems. Low dieback ratings are considered to
be an indicator of good health because the tree has been
able to support foliage and growth in the outer portions
of its crown. Crown dieback measures the percent of
branch tips that are found dead. If dead twigs and
branches occupy no more than 5 percent of the crown
area, crown dieback is considered low; more than 20
percent dieback is considered high.
Very few trees surveyed in Connecticut had significant
amounts of crown dieback. Ratings were low on 86
percent of the trees, and dieback was high on less than 1
percent of the trees. Average dieback was about 4
percent, influenced by largely high dieback on eastern
Dieback was low on only 68 percent of eastern hemlock
trees and high on 4 percent of these trees, which may be
the result of repeated heavy infestations of hemlock
wooly adelgid. Damage indices bear this out. On eastern
hemlock, 77 percent of tree damage was related to dead
or broken tops, which usually results from adelgid
attack. This was high compared to the average of all
species, in which 19 percent was related to dead or
broken tops. Select red oaks also varied from the average,
except 86 percent of the damage was related to decay.
The continued observations of dieback, damage, and
similar attributes will allow identification of trends and
improve evaluations of forest conditions. But in the end,
it has been the remarkable resilience of Connecticut's
forests, along with aggressive pest management, that
have allowed the forests to withstand damaging agents
and remain healthy. While humans have been
responsible for introducing some pests, they also have
been responsible for their eradication or control,
allowing forests to grow and flourish.
Connecticut's Changing Forest
The Native Americans were the first to practice forest management to create stands of trees that
produced optimal benefits for their societ}\ They knew that if allowed to mature without human
interference, the woodlands would climax into densely shaded forests of hemlock and beech.
Birch, red maple, ash, pine, understot}-, brush, and herbaceous vegetation wotild soon disappear.
Bv burning the forests on a regular basis, the earliest inhabitants of Connecticut found that a
^'arie^" of cover rs'pes and a balanced mixture of tree sizes could be maintained and would be
beneficial. It would provide the proper blend of mast, nesting and mating sites, and shelter for the
varier\- of wildlife species upon which they depended.
Forest management through the \\idespread use of wildfire is neither practical nor tolerated today.
Yet, proacti\'e management of Connecticut's forests can yield a rich forest diversity, beneficial for
watershed protection, general aesthetics, floral and faunal species diversin; and the full range of
both industrial and nonindustrial forest products.
In regenerating stands (seedling-sapling class) after major disturbances — such as fire, timber
hars-esting, and land abandonment — \\ildlife species that utilize the low growing herbaceous and
shrub vegetation become common. Species that prefer this habitat include song sparrow, bluebird,
^■\merican goldfinch, cedar waxrwing, golden-winged
warbler, bobolink, and eastern cottontail.
Often the number of species present is at its lowest level in
the intermediate stands of a forest — between the dense
vegetation of the regenerating stands and the mature stands
(sa\\T;imber-size class) dominated by large trees. The
diversit)' of wildlife species, however, will change as these
forests grow, reaching a maximum in mature, overmature,
and all-age stands. Species that are more likely to be found
in these stands include pileated woodpecker, porcupine,
black bear, and fisher.
At one time, an even distribution of stand size classes was
considered to be ideal - that is about one-third in each of
the regenerating, intermediate, and mature stands. The
optimal distribution for sustaining balance in forests rests
in the determination of what is optimal and for whom.
The nature of the forest, the needs of landowners, the
demands of societ}', and many other factors contribute to
the perception of optimal. While variable over space and
time, some mix of all sizes is stiU considered beneficial.
In Connecticut forests today, a beneficial mix of stand size classes may not exist. A
disproportionate area — 69 percent of the timberland area - is in mature stands. In addition, there
is an unusually small amount of regenerating stands, which comprise only 6 percent of
timberland. The overall nature of tree gro\\Th, a decline in the abandonment of farmland, and
reduced timber har\'esting activities, ha^•e contributed to produce a forest comprised
predominantly of mature stands and with a deficit of regenerating stands.
This was not always so. In 1972, the different stand sizes were virtually balanced. During the
intetA-ening years, the area in mature stands has been steadily increasing. Beuveen 1972 and 1985,
the area of intermediate stands remained essentially unchanged, declining onlv between 1985 and
1998. However, the area of regenerating stands has steadily declined.
Proportion of Timberland
By Stand Class
Regenerating Stands Intermediate Stands
6 % 25 %
Change in Stand Classes on Timberland
These changes can still be considered beneficial to some wildlife. The recovery and return of many
woodland species has been remarkable during the last century. Black bear, wild turkey, white tail
deer, and beaver have increased in number. There have even been moose sightings along the
Massachusetts border. Maturing forests have made this possible. But the lack of balance between
stand sizes will eventually affect other species of wildlife, and may bring about population
declines. Few deny the social and environmental value of maintaining mature, old-growth forests.
Yet a balance is necessary for health and diversity.
Hunting, freshwater fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, photography, or just a day spent in the
fresh air of the woods, all depend on quality wildlife habitat and clean streams and ponds.
Increasingly intensive pressures resulting from high population densities in Connecticut present an
interesting challenge to foresters practicing multiple-use forest management. It is a challenge that
far exceeds what the State's original inhabitants could have possibly imagined when they simply
burned the forest to improve their food supply.
Hunting traditions are deeply rooted in
Connecticut and each year countless
hunters head to the woods. However, the
economic value of Connecticut's forest
habitat is even greater when genera
wildlife appreciation is considered. More
outdoor enthusiasts are making their way
into forests to view and photograph
wildlife.A variety of nongame species can
be found in forest habitats, but forested
wetlands attract even more diverse
species. While the actual dollar value of
such activities is impossible to evaluate,
to many it's priceless.
Number of Dead and Cull Trees on Timberland
Diameter Class (inches)
The Quality of WUdlife Habitat
Two habitat characteristics that usually improve as forest stands mature are the size of mast-
producing trees and numbers of standing dead and cull trees. Nuts and hard seeds produced by
overstor}' trees is an important forage resource for Connecticut's forest wildlife. Species that
depend on acorns and other hard mast include ruffed grouse, wild turkey, red-headed
woodpecker, blue jay, squirrel, chipmunk, gray fox, black bear, striped skunk, and white-tailed
The important mast-producing trees in Connecticut include hickor}', beech, and oak. The
quantit}^ of mast produced increases with tree size, and it can be assumed that mast production
has increased in the state because of increases in the number of large diameter oak and beech.
Since 1985, the number of oak and beech trees 1 1 inches and larger in diameter increased by 39
and 18 percent, respectively.
Standing dead and cull trees are important nesting and feeding sites for wildlife. These trees have
a higher probabilit}^ of being used by primar}^ cavity nesters, such as woodpeckers, as the wood is
more easily excavated. These cavities, and natural cavities caused by disease or injury, are used as
resting or nesting sites by various birds and small mammals.
In Connecticut, 7 percent of all standing trees in the forest are dead. Hemlock, red maple,
northern red oak, and white pine are the most numerous dead trees over 15 inches in diameter, in
almost equal numbers. These four species account for 62 percent of all standing dead trees of that
size, and are the prime candidates for nesting activities. Cull trees are those that exceed maximum
defect allowances for use as timber products due to rot or poor form — such as twisted trunks and
excessive branching. The characteristics that make cull trees undesirable for timber products are
beneficial to wildlife. Cavities, broken tops, pockets of rot, and boles with forks and limbs
provide suitable habitat. Ten percent of all standing trees are cull.
The Future of Connecticut's Forests
From the mid- 1800s to the early 1950s, the wide-scale return of Connecticut's forests was
remarkable. But for the past 50 years, new forest land from agricultural land abandonment has
been offset by losses due to land development resulting in the total amount of forest land
remaining stable. It is doubtful this will continue. In the future, the net loss of forest land is
expected to increase because of the diminished number of farms being abandoned and increased
development pressure from a growing population.
Connecticut has maturing forests dominated by hardwood species. This fact can be
documented through increases in the average age, size, and volume of trees in the state. The
majority of trees are healthy, with full crowns, little dieback, and few damages. One significant
exception is eastern hemlock, which tends to be in poorer condition with thin crowns, higher
amounts of dieback, and higher rates of damage, especially broken tops. These are likely the
effects of the hemlock woolly adelgid, among other pests.
Changes in species composition naturally take place as a forest grows, but cutting practices have
influenced this process, too. Low cutting rates and shaded conditions on the forest floor have
promoted the growth of shade tolerant species. Red maple also has responded very aggressively
to present conditions. Species that need full sunlight to reproduce, such as ash, hickory, paper
birch, and aspen, will be at a disadvantage in the more shaded conditions that are now more
Human population increases also influence how forests are used. Greater demands are now
being placed on forests to produce both traditional and nontraditional benefits and values.
Fragmentation of timberland into smaller holdings has made it more difficult to use the forest
in traditional ways. Landowners with small holdings are less likely to manage their forests for
timber products, and because many of these small holdings are home sites, these owners also
might be more likely to prohibit others from using their land.
The challenge for the future is how to sustain the delivery of goods and services people expect
from Connecticut's forest resource while addressing problems associated with increasing land
development controlling introduced pests, diseases, and invasive exotic plants; and managing
the lack of regeneration of desirable tree species such as oak.
Wharton, Eric H.; Widmann, Richard H.; Alerich, Carol L.; Barnett, Charles H.;
Lister, Andrew J.; Lister, Tonya W.; Smith, Don; Borman, Fred. 2004. The
forests of Connecticut. Resour Bull. NE-160. Newtown Square, PA: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station.
A report on the fourth forest inventory of Connecticut conducted in 1997-98 by
the Forest Inventory and Analysis unit of the Northeastern Research Station.
Explains the current condition and changes from previous inventories for forest
area, timber volume, biomass, growth and removals, and harvesting. Graphics
depict data at the state and geographic-unit level and, where appropriate, by
Keywords: forest inventory; volume; biomass; growth and removals.
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